East End Brokers Share Memorable Real Estate Moments

If there is one great constant in the East End real estate market, it’s change and the surprises that mutability delivers. Whether it’s a major market shift or mass mentality in action, a private moment made public or a potential deal that goes up in flames, experts and insiders from the Hamptons and the North Fork have entertaining and insightful stories to share about the most surprising aspects of their real estate careers.

“I’ve been a real estate broker for over a decade, real estate is an interesting and fun profession, where each day can be drastically different from the next depending on the personalities and wants of my customers/clients. However, I can recall one couple that I worked with for months, who had a vision ‘wish list’ of what they wanted their home to look like—but what they were really looking for was the property with the best ‘energy.’ There is no house-listing search for energy! I showed everything from teardowns to oceanfront McMansions. Then one day they found their oceanfront dream home and made an offer. As we walked from ocean to driveway bidding farewell and good wishes, we saw their car engulfed in flames due to a mechanical issue. My deal was off.”—Lynn November, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

“I have been doing real estate in the Hamptons full-time for over 26 years and there have been so many interesting and surprising things that have happened, you can’t even make this stuff up! I am a workaholic and always wanted to be the best at what I do, but I am surprised to be ranked every year in the top few in the country, including second nationwide and the only Hamptons broker ranked multiple times in the Top 5 nationwide! Never could have dreamed that.”—Susan Breitenbach, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, The Corcoran Group

“The tenant of a high-end rental in a newly renovated house in Georgica sent his chef to set up while he vacationed in Europe. I received a call from the chef that there was an emergency at the house. When I got there, he informed me that the sink in the center island was in the ‘wrong position’ and the island had to be turned around. I explained to him that it was a major job involving plumbing, electrical and tile work. He said to start the construction immediately, even though it was going to cost his boss six figures to accomplish. I was unable to reach the tenant for authorization and the chef continued to be insistent that the work begin at once. When I finally contacted the tenant, he was shocked at the conduct of his employee and terminated the chef that day. The family ended up living happily ever after there for the next two years—with the sink in the center island in the wrong position.”—Alan Schnurman, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Saunders & Associates

“I’ve had a number of surprising things happen in my real estate career, but there is one that always comes to mind. I was the listing broker, and the Manhattan attorney who represented the estate of the seller came to the closing without checks. Therefore, he couldn’t write the commission check. He said he would mail me a check. Fortunately, the bank he used in the city had a branch office here in the Hamptons. At the recommendation of the buyer’s attorney, I accompanied him to the bank and received my commission check. The buyer’s attorney and I have since become good friends.”—John Christopher, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Brown Harris Stevens of the Hamptons, LLC

“The most surprising thing that has happened to me as a realtor occurred when I was doing a final walkthrough of a home before the closing for the buyer. I was going through the house to see if everything was in order and came upon a Neiman Marcus shopping bag way back on a high shelf in a closet. I reached to pick it up, it was heavy and I thought, something valuable was left behind. To my amazement, it turned out to be the ashes of a deceased relative of the sellers! As shocking as this may be, it certainly drove home the need to be thorough when serving clients. Had I not done the walkthrough, the seller would not have known until they started unpacking and the buyers would have been burdened with the resolution. We were able to alert the sellers and deliver ‘grandma’s ashes’ to the family.”—Marie Beninati, Licensed Real Estate Broker, Beninati Associates

“One of the things that makes this industry interesting is the fact that every deal is different and things are constantly changing. Therefore, it is always full of surprises. Somehow or another, almost every deal brings some sort of new or interesting experience. Some are wonderful surprises and others can be quite challenging. I have seen all the obvious ones like certificate of occupancy and permitting issues, buried oil tanks and inspection and title issues. I have had buyers want new foundation walls, and bulkheads rebuilt, pools installed, a garage moved and extensions built onto homes. I have seen sellers in lawsuits with one another that resemble a movie. I always say almost any issue can be resolved once you know it exists and everyone is sharing the common goal of resolving it. The key is to do as much research and fact-checking as possible from the start, so there are not surprises.”—Donielle Cardinale, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Daniel Gale, Sotheby’s International Realty

“I can honestly say that every day in the real estate business has offered surprises in some shape or form, which is one of the reasons I love it so much. But one of the funniest/most surprising moments came early in my career. One day I was showing a house and opened a bedroom door where a couple was having sex. It must have looked like a fun house to live in because my customers ended up buying it.—Enzo Morabito Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, Enzo Morabito Real Estate Team, Douglas Elliman Real Estate

“There was a time I rented [to] my customer early, all cash, and signed leases before the New Year. And right afterward, the owner had an offer to sell his home and needed me to relocate the tenants, even though there was a binding lease. Trying to get compensation and appropriate housing, for them to agree to this, and having all parties agree quickly, including the new rental owner. I learned it’s never over until it’s over, and that experience and knowledge will always prevail in the negotiations.”—Marcy Braun, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson, Nest Seekers International

“The most surprising moment in my real estate career to date came in the late fall of 2014, when a broker colleague and I put buyer and seller together to hammer out a deal on a gorgeous house listed over $12 million. Until we sat together in one room, we could not reach a deal. But face-to-face we were able to reach a meeting of the minds. It was very gratifying.”—Mary Slattery, Licensed Associate Real Estate Broker, The Corcoran Group

“After 35 years as an agent, a broker and an owner—twice—there are not too many surprises. I’ve learned to remain fluid as our business ebbs and flows and our industry changes on a dime. My greatest surprise remains the same from the beginning of my career, and that is how so many highly intelligent people chose to move en masse. I remain amazed that most individuals are not contrarians. History has taught us that to buy when they’re selling and sell when they’re buying results in the most significant gains. I myself am a perpetual buyer of East End Dirt. I buy in both good and bad markets. I consider all markets opportunities and see potential every day. I recommend thinking outside the box!”—Judi Desiderio, CEO, Town & Country Real Estate 

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